30 Days of PD: 10 Things Living With Parkinson’s for 10 Years Has Taught Me

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Cathy Chiaramonte

Photo courtesy of Cathy Chiaramonte

Day 21 of 30

This is Cathy Chiaramonte’s story:

My journey with Parkinson’s began one spring day 10 years ago when I (then 53 years old) was at the blackboard teaching my seventh grade science students. As I raised my right hand to the board to emphasize a point, it began to shake. Within months, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

I was stunned. I knew absolutely no one with the disease. The loneliness and fear were debilitating. Overnight the trajectory of my plans for the future shifted dramatically. I began a painful process of self-education, mourning, and gradual acceptance that continues today.

After 10 years, I still have so much to learn about living peacefully and with hope and dignity while carrying the label PWP — person with Parkinson’s. While we PWPs are blessed with an abundance of support in the medical community, including foundations, alliances, and national and regional organizations dedicated to making our lives better, the best teachers I have found are other Parkinson’s patients. With a true generosity of heart, this community has shared with me their experiences, physical and otherwise, that are painful, humorous, embarrassing, uplifting, and humbling.

I’ve compiled a list of 10 lessons that attempt to cover the practical to the spiritual. They are 10 of thousands.

  1. Never underestimate the impact of simple kindness.
  2. A blank face doesn’t indicate a blank mind.
  3. We know how ridiculous we look getting into and out of a car.
  4. If those of us who drool could avoid drooling, we would.
  5. Spitting when talking is more mortifying for the spitter than the spittee.
  6. Getting impatient doesn’t increase the speed at which we move.
  7. For some of us, many of our most troubling symptoms are not visible.
  8. Imagine the courage needed to get up each day knowing that you are fighting a war that you can never win.
  9. Ask if you can help someone at the grocery store who is struggling with those annoying produce bags or having trouble reaching an item.
  10. When at a loss for what you can do to help, see item #1.

Parkinson’s News Today’s 30 Days of PD campaign will publish one story per day for Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in April. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPD, or read the full series.